Dreamer

As Stella gets older I sometimes think back to my childhood.  The very young years are often a blur.  I do remember feeling loved and safe and being filled with wonder.  My earliest memory is from about four years old, I would guess, and I am in the front room of the first house I lived in, a second floor, three bedroom apartment in Brooklyn.  There were seven of us kids along with my parents who converted what would have been the living room into their bedroom.  I had to learn to share space at a very young age and didn’t have a room of my own until I was seventeen.

We called the front room the porch, partly because it was where we played and partly because it had a bunch of windows that opened up to the street below.  It seemed airy and light to me.

The memory is of my mother and one of my brothers, Greg I think, and myself, at night.  The windows were open so it must have been summer.  Sometimes we kids would lay blankets down on the parquet floors and sleep out there because the cool night air seemed to circulate better than in the small windowed bedrooms.  My Mom was sitting in a chair and my brother and I were looking out a window at the few stars that could be seen in the nighttime sky of the city.  He was pointing out the big dipper.  The memory fills me with a feeling of contentment and a sense of wonder.

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adventures in slumberland –

 

It is nearly fifty years on and now and again I look up at the stars and think back upon that earliest memory and wonder.  How did I get from there to here?  Why so many twists and turns along the way?  Have I always been looking up, head in the clouds, unable, at times, to navigate life on solid ground?

One of my nicknames as a child was Drew, the Dreamer.  I was off in my own little world.  Not sure who pinned that on me but I’d like to think it was my mother, that she saw in me an ethereal quality that has been both a burden and a blessing.  A burden, because at times, I’m often not present, and a blessing, because at other times, I’ve felt connected to the intricate web of life.  The mystery behind the curtain.

As William Blake said, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”

I can be a pragmatist when it is warranted. Get things done. The Pragmatist can help clear a path to the doors.

But the Dreamer.

Well.

The Dreamer can wipe away the dust.

Here and Now

I can’t sleep. Awake at four in the morning with a thousand thoughts running through my brain.  The sunrise is on fire.    The cat has finally settled down from his middle of the night acrobatics and is nuzzling my arm. Today will be Stella -Daddy day with Lindsay working in the studio, probably late into the night.

The thousand thoughts, full of “shoulds” and “whens” and “what ifs” will try to take hold of my day, but being with Stella, the power of Here and Now will overtake the thoughts, if I let it, and my day will be preserved for an eternity.

So.  I drink my coffee and let the thoughts have their way.  She’ll be awake soon and I will be closer to serenity.image

Three Years On

I remember that day at the hospital three years ago. The day Stella was born and my life changed forever. That was the day I became a father and the depth of what that means has grown immensely.

My father wasn’t bad, just absent. He rarely engaged in “normal” parental activities. As an adult I realized that he probably did the best he could with what he learned from his father. Despite all his shortcomings as a father I always felt love. Unconditional love. He would admonish, but at the end of the day and at the end of his life, he encouraged me to follow my dreams and find joy.

That lesson has served me well. I know I have stumbled along my path. But that path has led me to an amazing wife and magical daughter. Love has been my guiding principle in being a father. It has served me well.

Happy Birthday Stella Lu! Three years on.

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We Three

I just carried Stella off to bed.  The house is quiet except for the sound of rain and the new kitten, probably up to no good.  My wife, Lindsay, is at the studio, finishing off her weekly studio time.  She goes to the studio for three days while I’m off from my job and usually works at least ten to twelve hours each of those days.  It can be hard on all of us. The time apart.  But it’s essential to our future.  I may be biased, but Lindsay is an amazing artist and has found success here in town and will no doubt garner a larger audience.  I have always believed this.

We Three

We three.  Sometimes apart, but always together.

Stella will ask for Mamma during this time, but knows that she will come back. She says the same thing of me when I’m gone.  I know that she’s not confused by the time apart.  She trusts us to return.  She trusts us to protect her.  There’s a bond of trust we have tried it instill in her that will not be broken or diminished. I lose count of the number of times she says,” Daddy.  I love you.” And gives me a hug.  And each time it melts my heart.  Each time it’s a confirmation of that trust.

We three.  As if we found long lost friends and will never let go.

If she wakes in the night, Lindsay will go to her room and scoop her up in her arms and bring her back to our bed.  We have a full size bed.  Pretty small even for two and as Stella grows and the addition of a cat, things can get pretty crowded.  

I dont mind though.  In fact, I love it!  I’ve never felt so connected to two other beings.  ( The jury is still out on Gyp, the cat, who still wakes me rather early with a pounce and a nibble to the chin ).  The love I feel when I wake in the morning far outweighs the sore back.  

We three.  Sitting up in bed together preparing to face the day.  

I will go off to work in the morning and there will be Mamma – Stella day.  My time apart will begin.  I will be filled in on the days events, the moments missed, the milestones reached.  My body will be somewhere else but my heart will be with them.  

We three.  We are like the spokes of a wheel, inexorably linked, and spinning through time.  

 

 

 

 

No Name

We have a new cat. A kitten. Who has figured out that I am the human most likely to awaken if gnawed on at 5:30 AM. He has figured out that my proclivity to wake early these days and my body’s need to use the bathroom are optimal opportunity to get fed and play.

My insistence on not getting another cat has been undermined by my wife Lindsay’s ability to recruit Stella to her cause for getting one. I couldn’t say no to a two and a half year olds sweet plea, “They’re so cute!”

They are indeed.

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This little fellow joined our household a little over a week ago after some especially difficult, nightmare filled nights for Stella. I could no longer fight the inevitable and the time seemed right for a breath of new energy for us all.

When asking her what the kitty’s name is, her answer, “It’s a boy.” She points out, ” Two girls and two boys now, Daddy.”

I have achieved a balance of gender equality here on the home-front.

Thanks for the company little guy. I’ll see you bright and early.

One year later …

I had just about given up on this blog and the more time that passed between posts the more I convinced myself that there was no way I could catch up on all the events that had happened over the past year.  Let it go, I thought, and let it remain what it was, the meanderings a of a man surprised by joy.

But …

Waking early, before wife and daughter, has once again become the pattern.  So I sit, for awhile, read the news of the day, drink my coffee and think.  I received an email the other day reminding me that my domain name renewal is coming up and for a moment considered letting it expire, but my ego got the best of me and being a father at fifty,  one of a growing demographic,  I’ve decided to hang on to it a little longer.

My light
My light

 

A year has passed since my last post and the temptation to fill in the blanks is strong.  I won’t though.  They’ll fill themselves in as needed if I become more consistent with this thing.  My wife and daughter remain the light in my life and the serenity of the morning envelopes my heart.

Unconditional

It’s been a long time since my last post and my little girl is growing up.  Much has unfolded since the beginning of the year and Stella is approaching the two-year mark.  That in itself is hard to fathom.  I still look at her and can hardly believe I have a child.

So, I present a laundry list of events, in no particular order, of the last seven months.

I turned fifty-one, drawing with friendswhich sort of invalidates the title of this blog, but time obliterates all things.  Yes? This year i felt my mortality more than last which has resulted in some angst filled nights.

 

 

 

 

Little Trooper

 

Stella had a second medical procedure.  She had a growth removed from her leg, which we had been monitoring since birth.  It was a subcutaneous hemangioma, as suspected, but now confirmed. Totally benign.  And of course it was stressful as she had to go under general anesthesia for the second time.  She was a trooper and was anxious to get back on her feet within hours.  She now has a cool scar to intimidate the other toddlers she runs with.

By the Sea

 

Stella got to fly on an airplane for the first time and did great.We took a trip to Los Angeles, our first vacation in four years and stayed with friends who made us feel at home.  Stella squealed with joy at her first visit to the ocean.  The first of many I hope.

 

 

 

We had to say goodbye to our cat, Baby, who got ill again but with no chance of recovery, we put her down and will sorely miss her magical presence in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Stella Lu

Each day brings new milestones and Stella moves from being a toddler to becoming a little girl, her personality shining through.  She arranges her stuffed animals around her to sing or draw.  She calls out from her bedroom, “Daddy!  Where are you!”  She runs  to the front door when she hears the key turning in the lock and she knows Mommy’s home.  She now finds things amusing and laughs and shrieks with joy.  She pouts when she wants something she can’t have and gets over it as quickly as it first caught her fancy.  She’s affectionate, especially with other children and waves hello to the people we pass on the street.

Stella has taught me so much over the past seven months.  Courage to face the next challenge.  Finding joy in the simplest of pleasures.  Living in the moment and shedding the cares of the world.  But mostly, she has to me how to love deeper than ever before. Unconditionally and pure.

 

 

Tears

It’s 5 AM and I’m sitting up in bed having my first sip of coffee. I haven’t had much sleep, maybe four hours. I worked last night. Lindsay, who’s asleep next to me, has probably had less since she’s been up and down with Stella through the night. Stuffy, runny nose. 20121205-195906.jpgStella is scheduled for a fairly routine outpatient procedure to unblock a tear duct, but it does involve her being under general anesthesia for 10 to 15 minutes, which is the part that scares the hell out if me.

The procedure is considered elective at this point since it hasn’t caused any major problems other than perpetual tears running down the right side of her face. Blocked tear ducts are fairly common in babies and usually rights itself by one year. Her left eye is fine and has been for some time and though there has been very little infection in the right eye, which we’ve been able to treat with a simple antibiotic ointment, it could get worse and cause more problems. Problem is that the longer we wait the chance of infections increases and the success rate of unblocking on the first try decreases.

I’m afraid this father thing will never get easy. This feeling that your child is so vulnerable. So utterly dependent on your decisions.

It’s 8 AM and the anesthesiologist has signed off on the procedure. Her oxygen levels and heart rate is great. Lindsay is going in with Stella to be with her when they put her under but has to leave and wait with me until they’re done. It will be the longest 10 or 15 minutes ever. Lindsay’s mom has come done to be with us.

Lindsay tells us that Stella put up a struggle and started crying when they put the mask on and she was clinging to her but she finally goes to sleep. Tough little girl.

It’s about 10 minutes when the doctor comes out to us. We can’t tell anything from his expression. Lindsay asks if everything is ok and he smiles and says it went great. They’re waking her up and we can go see her shortly. He goes over what we need to do and we go in to get her. She’s crying, of course, but settles down quickly. Her right eye is goofy from medication but she looks great and is thirsty and tired.

It went great and I can feel my body relax knowing she’s ok. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to know for sure if was a success.

As the day goes in she rests a lot and is extra cuddly and all looks to be well. I love this little girl more than anything in the world.

Hope

I awoke early today with thoughts of the future whirling through my head.  It’s Election Day and this will be the ninth Presidential Election I will vote in.  I find myself thinking about the trajectory of my life and where Stella’s life will lead.

The Future

I was born when JFK was in the White House.  He was young and represented a new generation of Americans, a future filled with hope.  Stella, of course, was born while Barack Obama resides in the White House.  An even more historic moment in time.  Something that seemed impossible fifty years ago.

Today I will go vote and I will take my daughter along with me.  With all the problems with our democracy and our country, I still feel pride and hope when I walk into that voting booth.  I want Stella to feel that same sense of pride and civic duty.

Stella’s been walking now for over a month and each day she gets better at it.  Soon she’ll be running around and falls will decrease as her skill increases.  There may be times in her life where she may stumble, get right up and walk on.  My hope is that she will live in a world where that’s possible, where anything is possible.

So today I cast my vote for the future, for Obama, because I want Stella to grow up in a country filled with hope, opportunity and fairness.

 

Da Da

My first father’s day has come and gone and when my brother Kevin called me that day he summed it up best when he said:

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“I never thought I’d be saying this to you, but, Happy Father’s Day!”

Stella is now 8 and 1/2 months old and each day seems to be one of progress.  From toothless to two teeth.  From rolling to slow forward movement, stretching and sliding.

And she’s a talker.  Obviously it’s babble now, but she has said her first babble with intent.  Sometimes, when I walk into the room and she hasn’t seen me for a while she smiles and says:

“Da Da!”

I know, I know. I’m possibly imagining that she means me.  She doesn’t respond to anyone or anything else the same way, so I’ll take it.

Put a fork in me.  I’m done.

In the best possible way.

Father at Fifty

Well.  The day has finally arrived.  My half century around the sun is complete.  More so with Stella Lu in my life.

half century + 7 months = pure joy

Her presence opens up chambers of my heart I never imagined I had.  A love so deep it aches.  Her smile wipes away the troubles of the day and all seems right with the world.

As I ponder the arc of my life, many events didn’t make sense at the time.  “Why is this happening?” was often muttered, or screamed, in frustration.  There were also many more times when life seemed grand, but nothing compares to now.  And the “now” is where I try to live thanks to Stella.  She has made me a better man; a better human.  One filled with hope for the future.

I arrived home after midnight last night.  I was exhausted from another busy night at work.  I entered our apartment softly, officially fifty years of age.  Lindsay had left a light on in the livingroom as she always does.  My girls were sound asleep.  The cat, who usually wakes upon my arrival, stayed curled up in a ball on the rocking chair.  As I walked through the house checking locks and closing windows, the weather was turning, a quietness filled me.  I washed up and took a peek at Stella, fast asleep in her crib, and stood there for a few moments, gently touching her.  Her room aglow in soft light.  My sweet child.

“What was life like before I met you?”

“Incomplete.”

Off to my room, I slipped into bed, cuddled up to Lindsay and kissed her goodnight.  As she slept deeply I whispered, “I love you.”  over and over, drifting off to sleep.  All was right with my world.

My one wish is to be able to stick around for another half century so I can spend that much more time with my two loves.  I’m filled with joy, so much so, that a huge grin is stretched across my face.  Lindsay and Stella do that to me a lot.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

Enveloped in Peace

As I hold Stella in my arms I think about the last six months. That’s how old she’ll be in a few days.

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Every day when I wake and go to lift her out of her crib she smiles and my heart beats faster. She has become this little girl with a personality of her own. She loves cuddling in our arms, smiles a lot and the strangest things make her giggle. Usually words. She’s a little shy around others but is getting used to some people. Our cat makes her smile and she tries to talk to it. She also likes holding conversations with fabrics, especially the tags with care instructions on them which she almost always finds.

I try to see the world through her eyes. Now that the weather is nicer and we can go out more she looks at everything with such focus and wonder. She has taught me to do the same.

She’s the light in my life and I can hardly remember what it felt like without her.

So, as she falls asleep in my arms, her breathe soft and steady, I feel enveloped in peace. We two, are here in this moment, filled with joy.

Lifting the veil

Here it is. five in the morning and I am chugging coffee, in a desperate attempt to get out from under my drooping eyelids. I just need my four-month old daughter, Stella, to sleep for a few more minutes before I need to be on. Being a parent sometimes feels like being a talk show host. You have to entertain, keep things moving, deal with the tears, while presenting a cheerful attitude. The difference being that there are no commercial breaks, the house band is a combination of the radiators clanging on and the cat meowing just as we’re about to put Stella down for a nap.

It’s been awhile since I’ve consistently seen the sunrise, a couple of years since a job made it necessary to be awake at this hour. I’ve always liked this time of the day, the veil of night lifting, my consciousness caught between sleep and awake has, somehow, always suited me. Life seems most serene at this hour, full of possibilities. The rituals of my morning have been pretty consistent for years; quietly sipping that first cup of coffee while listening to the news, bring me comfort and clarity.

i eventually get to the ritual after a slight detour;.a bottle prepared, a diaper change, the cat comforted from a night banished outside the bedroom. I wonder if I’m imprinting this routine on to Stella. Will the smell of coffee and the low, muffled tones of the radio become memories?

So. Even though it is 5 AM, she has slept for nine or ten hours. Which usually means I got about seven hours. I’m rested. But I still need the coffee to help lift the veil, to shorten the distance between sleep and consciousness. When she finally wakes, her eyes open wide and she looks around in silence. Then she sees me and a smile breaks across her face. Confirmation of the possibilities each new day brings. My morning ritual just got sweeter.

Labor Day

Stella is five weeks old tomorrow, but I’d like to look back to the day she was born.

Tuesday night, october 11th:. Lindsay is home with her friend Colleen and they have been timing contractions for a few hours. They are coming at least five minutes apart, if not quicker, and with increasing intensity.

Just after midnight: I get off of work and head home.

2:30 in the morning, October12th: I drive Lindsay to Memorial Hospital and make good on my promise.

2:45 AM: The triage nurse measures Lindsay at 3 centimeters, but won’t admit her until she’s at 5. Colleen, who happens to be a nurse at Memorial, and I walk Lindsay around the hospital for an hour in the hopes of getting things moving.

4:00 AM: it works. She reaches 5 centimeters and we are admitted to a birthing room.

5:00 AM: Lindsay opts for some mild narcotics to help with relaxing between contractions. We are going to try to work through them with the skills we learned in birthing class.

7:00 AM: Lindsay is assigned a new nurse, Melissa, who will be with us for the duration.

8:00 AM: Texts are sent to family and we settle in for what will hopefully be a short time. While I help Lindsay get through the contractions, Colleen offers moral support.

Late Morning: My sister Lisa stops by to get a set of keys to our apartment so she can check in on our cat. I packed along with Lindsay, prepared to stay for a few days.

The next few hours consist of the periodic monitoring of contractions and heartbeats, walks around the birthing floor, a long hot shower, many trips to the bathroom and donuts.

Around 2:00 PM: Dr. Fowler stops in for a second time. Lindsay’s been at 8 centimeters for a couple of hours now. He breaks her water to help things along and is confident she will be having the baby in a couple of hours. There is some merconium, but he assures us that there is not enough to be alarmed about.

Lindsay decides to get an epidural. She’s endured enough and feels that the pain of the actual childbirth may be too much. She’s been a trooper and deserves some relief.

It works and the contractions are barely noticeable. Lindsay finds enough relief to nod off for a short time. We are all exhausted. Colleen, who has been with us the whole time, falls asleep on the sofa. I doze off in the rocking chair.

A calm envelopes the room.

Close to 4:00 PM: Still at 8 centimeters. The contractions and the baby’s heartbeat are still steady, but Melissa, our nurse, decides to internally monitor them to make sure everything is moving along since Lindsay is still at eight.

Five minutes later: The monitors are in. The heartbeat slows, then stops and starts up. It’s inconsistent. We get Lindsay on her side for better positioning. The heartbeat is sporadic and slowing.

“What’s Happening!”

The doctor is on his way. The nurses believe Lindsay is at 10 centimeters, that the baby has dropped,  and start readying for delivery.

We are scared!

Dr. Fowler arrives and determines that Lindsay is still at 8 centimeters. He advises a C-section because she has been stuck at eight for some time and the baby’s heart rate is still sporadic. We can wait, but he advises against it.

Between 4:00 and 4:20 PM:. The next twenty minutes are the scariest of my life. We decide to do the C-section. There is a buzz of activity as they prepare Lindsay for the operation. I am handed hospital scrubs and told to get ready. Lindsay and Colleen are in tears. I am numb. It’s all happening so fast. They take Lindsay away and I ask Colleen to try and contact family and get all our stuff together. I am taken to a waiting area outside the operating room and told to wait. Nurses are milling back and forth. One of them gives me instructions on what’s about to happen and how things will unfold.

Then … I’m alone in the hallway. Waiting.

The tears come. Fear starts to fill me. Please. Let everything be ok. I can’t lose them. I won’t be able to face a future without Lindsay. We’ve come too close for it to not end well. My thoughts go to a dark place. I’m crying now. But I can’t let Lindsay see my fear. I feel totally helpless.

It seems like time has stopped. Why is it taking so long?

Then Melissa brings me into the operating room.

There’s a chair by Lindsay’s head that I sit in and I brush her hair with my hand. She’s panicked. There’s a curtain blocking our view of the procedure.

“Something’s wrong!” She says. “Is the baby ok?”

Dr. Fowler tells her she will feel some pressure and I see it in her eyes and the grimace in her face.

4:21 PM: Stella is born.

I peak over the curtain and I see her. My daughter. She’s squirming in the Doctors hands.

She’s beautiful!

Tears of joy in my eyes, I kiss Lindsay and tell her how beautiful our baby is. It’s all going to be ok.

Soon I am brought over to the incubator where the nurses are cleaning the baby and trying to get her to cry a little stronger. They are trying to clear her lungs. She aspirated.

I’m in awe. This is my child.

I go back to Lindsay’s side and try to comfort her. To calm her fears. She’s convinced something’s wrong. That we won’t tell her.

“Why can’t I hear her cry?”

She feels nauseous. I hold a bag for her to get sick in.

The nurse brings Stella over and hands her to me. She’s swaddled and I lean her in to Lindsay. We’re both crying. Lindsay can’t hold her because she’s numb and her hands are strapped down out to her sides.

Sadly it’s only a moment as they have to take the baby up to ICU and keep her on oxygen. I kiss Lindsay and go with the nurses up with Stella. I don’t want to leave Lindsay’s side but I need to go with the baby.

4:30PM: Intensive care unit. They weigh and measure the baby. They continue to rub her down and clear her airway. People are talking at me, but it’s all a blur. I want to be with Lindsay. Hold her. Comfort her. I want her to hold our daughter.

“What’s her name?”

No name. Not until her Mom sees her. Holds her. So, she’s Baby Girl Hand for now.

Back down to recovery and at Lindsay’s side. She’s shaking and incoherent. Confused. And still convinced that we’re withholding the truth. When can she see the baby. I stay with her for awhile. Holding her.

Melissa, who has been her nurse all day is with her. She assures me that Lindsay will be ok. They have just given her something to help her relax.  She also informs me that it was wise to do the C-section  The embilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck three times and as she dropped it was choking her.

And so for the next few hours I am back and forth between mother and daughter. Lindsay’s parents and sister, my sister, and friends come by.

10:00 PM: Lindsay is taken in a wheelchair to see Stella. She finally gets to hold her. They have taken the oxygen off and she’s breathing on her own. The visit is brief.

All night long I trek back and forth between Lindsay’s room and Stella’s. Every time I’m with Lindsay she tells me to go be with the baby so she’s not alone. I finally fall asleep in Lindsay’s room and awake at around 6:00 AM and discover Lindsay awake and sitting up in bed

” I get to go see her in an hour!” she says like a kid waiting for Christmas morning.

My heart breaks at the sight of Lindsay filled with pure love and longing. The fact that it had been so long without her baby in her arms wounds my soul.

Thursday morning, October 13th, 8:30 AM: Stella gets to leave the ICU!  She is with us now  And forever.

I want to thank some people for the part they played.  Colleen for being with us throughout the labor.  For her calming effect and support.  Melissa, our nurse, for her kindness and compassion.  She suspected something wasn’t quite right at the end and for remaining with Lindsay through the birth and recovery.  She visited us the next day to officially meet Stella and told Lindsay what an awesome job she did.  That Lindsay was one of her favorite patients.  Doctor Fowler for his awareness and decisiveness.  For bringing Stella into the world unharmed.  Family and Friends for their love and support.

I experienced many emotions throughout the day, love for Lindsay and Stella reigning supreme.  We three begin our life together.

New Soul Song

Stella Lu LiVigni was born October 12th at 4:21 pm.

Stella Lu

She weighed 6 pounds 8.4 ounces and was 19 and 1/4 inches long at the time of birth.

I love you Lindsay.

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

I love you Stella.

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

Welcome to the world little one.